Saturday, January 05, 2008

The grandpa

Grandpa, is it true that there were snakes in this house? I asked innocently. Yes, when your father was very young, there were many. What happened to them? Oh! I bought a mongoose; the snakes got scared and they ran out of the house. Ran? I thought snakes did not have legs.

Why are you cutting down the tamarind tree from the backyard? Oh! We need more space. I plan to construct an outhouse for you. You know what my friends are saying; they say that ghosts stick to tamarind trees and so the tree is getting chopped. Is it true?

Grandpa, will you take me to the pond at the outskirts of the village? I want to see the crocodiles there. Who said so? Gopal went there last week, and he told me that summer is getting warmer by the day; the crocodiles may vanish any day. So, I want to see the crocodiles before they disappear.

Never a person to flinch, my grandfather was ready with his answers for all those unanswerable questions that I posed to him. He spent a lot of time with me day in and day out. In the early days of my life, I have spent more time with him than with anybody else. Our relationship was cemented right from the time he took me in his arms the day I was born. For every little question that I had, I would turn to my grandpa for the answers. Invariably, the solutions seemed too logical to doubt them even for a second. He seemed to have the right answers even for the wrong questions.

All day, he kept himself busy doing small household chores that gave him immense satisfaction. He meddled with his carpentry set and came up with nice little desks; if there was a problem with the taps, he would take out his plumbing kit or if he had no work, he would spend his time tidying up the backyard, wading out the dried branches that fell from atop the single coconut tree. He always found something to do in the backyard, since it was filled with numerous plants and trees. I just loved the season when the guavas and the mangoes used to get ripe; he would allow me to take as many fruits as I wanted. The best part is I never did it alone. I always had a group of friends to loot the produce. I would always tell him “Grandpa, whatever happens, this mango tree will always be mine.

Arun! Arun!
Come here. He never spoke aloud; I knew that there was something interesting coming up when he spoke out aloud. See that branch of the mango tree. I would strain my eyes to see the spot he was directing his index finger at. After several futile attempts of directionless gaze, my sight would find that spot. I would get amazed at his ability to pick something interesting amidst the thick cluster of leaves and twigs. Do you see that large black structure there? Yes, yes, I would cry out in glee. Well, that is the bee hive. Always remember this; never disturb a bird’s nest and a bee hive, it is not good for the house. Why is he telling me that? Am I out of my mind to get stung by the bees? But, I never voiced out my opinion.

The walk to and fro school was something I would cherish. I was always accompanied by my grandpa and it was quite a sight to see him narrate different kinds of stories. He made sure to ask me the moral at the end of the story. The story of boy crying wolf was first narrated to me by him.

There was a boy in a small village. He used to take care of his flock of sheep by taking them behind the hills. He tried to play a prank on the villagers by crying out for help. Wolf! Wolf! Somebody save me! The villagers would run to help him, and then realize that they were fooled by the young man. This happened about a couple of times and so when the third time, when there were wolves really chasing him, nobody believed his cries for help. The wolves killed the flock and he returned home empty handed.

What is the moral of the story? I looked at him and said innocently, he should have called out Tiger! Tiger! Somebody save me. At least people would have known that since he is calling out a different animal, maybe he is not lying. My grandfather would say, “So the moral is never to lie. I would be equal to the task, “Change the moral. Never lie more than once. As such the villagers came the second time to save the boy.” I never understood the frown on his face then.

My grandpa never reproached me. He always reasoned with me to convey a point. When I failed to score marks, when everyone around me drove me to frustration, he was the only one who explained to me the importance of having good education. Many a time, when I failed to come to terms with reality, he was there to convey the importance of not losing focus in life. At every stage, I looked up to him and picked up those qualities, which would keep me in good stead to lead a happy life.

When I had to leave the village to pursue my first job in town, I still have the visions of my grandfather coming to the bus stop to drop me off. Before leaving the house, I prostrated before my grandfather and I could see his eyes glistened with tears; not that mine was devoid of them. As my parents repeatedly told me to be careful with my belongings and told me to come regularly during the weekends, I could see my grandpa lost in his own world. But, of course, he had a word of advice for me. Whatever you become in life, never forget your past.

My weekend trips were a regular and I saw to it that I never missed unless I had something to finish up at the town. Grandpa stood at the bus stop awaiting my arrival eagerly. His eyes would light up as soon as I alighted from the bus. Every weekend was a reunion and both of us looked forward to it eagerly. We had our discussions, similar to the way we had during my school days, but on totally different things. As the days went by, our lives had stuck a routine. Then, one not so fine day, there was a telegram from home about the not so good health of grandpa. It was pretty much surprising because grandpa, even at the age of eighty was as fit as a fiddle, and so, I had never even considered something happening to grandpa. The journey from town to village was filled with various thoughts. There was a huge void not to see grandpa at the bus stop. The ancestral home was crowded with people, and I could see grandpa lying on the cot in the room. It was depressing not to see him involved in his usual activities. As soon as he saw me, he motioned me towards him, even at that state of unconsciousness. I dutifully went and sat beside him not knowing what to say. We have had numerous discussions during my growing up process, but this was different. Something within me told me that not all was well, and it might be one of the last moments that I would get to spend with grandpa. My parents were standing in the corner, and I had a feeling that they feared what I feared. Our worst fears were confirmed when grandpa did not see the light of the next day.

As with everything else, life came back to normalcy in a few days. Though it was tough, life had to move on. During my next visit to the village, my grandpa’s will was read out in the presence of elders. A lot of things in the household were divided among his kith and kin. He had left a reasonable fortune that nobody could complain about. At the very end, apart from everything that was shared, there was something significant read out that I will never forget for the rest of my life. As a parting gift, I bequeath the mango tree at the backyard to my grandson, Arun!

(All images have been used for information purpose only; taken from Google image search including RK Laxman's common man pic)


  1. Wow, Praveen! This story is simply out of this world! You have brought out the nuances of the relationship so well! I especially liked Arun's reasoning of 'Boy who cried wolf'!
    Excellent write-up!

  2. Beauty!
    Liked the line "Whatever you become in life, never forget your past."
    I'm sure that was a result of yesterday's chat. :)

  3. Sowmya,
    Thanks a lot for the compliments!!! Good to know that you liked the short story. Most of the plot was conceived during the write up process. :-)

    Thanks man!!!
    Yeah, I guess so :-) Most of my write ups are taken up from real life scenarios.

  4. Nice it reminded me partly of my own grandpa....

  5. Chiroti,
    Thanks a lot!

    Thanks Vishnu!!!


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  7. sentimens beautifully portrayed. Good work!

  8. sentiments beautifully portrayed. Good work!

  9. Ratika,
    Thanks for the comment, Ratika and welcome to my blog :-)